The Treatment of Arts Subjects at Secondary Level-Tim Dodd, Year 11.

With the Government cutting funding for “soft subjects” like the Arts, it sometimes feels like nothing is being done to fight back.  Drama and Dance have been removed from the National Curriculum and many fear that Art and Music may follow. But are these the subjects that we really want to be cutting out? Should we be taking away expressive subjects where children are free to be who they are and emerge from their comfort zone and be able to free themselves into a world of imagination?

As a keen Musical Theatre student, I have a passion for the Arts, especially Drama. Throughout  my secondary education, there has been no Drama lesson that has put me in a bad mood or made me want to change my career path. However, over these past two years, I have realised something that I never noticed before; the lack of care and funding that is going into the Arts departments. I find this appalling. In other subjects, academic ones, the necessary equipment is there. In Maths, there are textbooks, in English there are playscripts and fundamental resources for the lesson. However, in Drama, costumes and props are heaps of towels and scarves and an occasional lampshade. More funding needs to be put into building up our expressive arts subjects and this is what the Government cannot see and even seem to be fighting against. Even though there is little funding across the board, money needs to be going equally to departments. Very little effort is being put into the Arts and it is clear that the Government wants it cut from the curriculum to make space for more academic subjects and, more likely, to save money. It’s a conspiracy and schools are falling for it.

In February 2015, Mark Brown, an Arts correspondent for the Guardian, wrote an article on “Arts being removed from the UK education system”. In the article, the Warwick commission article is discussed after just being released. To sum this up, the Warwick Commision said “the cultural and creative industries need to take a united and coherent approach that guarantees equal access for everyone to a rich cultural education and the opportunity to live a creative life.” They then went onto say “There are barriers and inequalities in Britain today that prevent this from being a universal human right. This is bad for business and bad for society.”
Going back to the Guardian article, we find out some shocking statistics. Between 2003 and 2013, there was a huge drop of 23% for the number of students studying Drama and 25% for those studying craft based subjects.  This is all down to the government creeping ever closer to measuring the country’s  schools’ successes on the amount of students taking five or more academic subjects. This in turn has lead to creative pupils being given only one or two options at GCSE level. It isn’t rocket science to work out what is going on.

Growing up, I found Drama was one of the many ways I could be myself and no one can judge me for it.  Look at stars like Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Ball. Two massive stars who, with the help of Drama and the Arts, have been able to go on to pursue huge careers.

More needs to be done to allow children to be free and choose what they want to study.  Schools  are trying to encourage teenagers to pick more academic subjects for GCSE because of government pressures. Furthermore, with cuts in funding for the Arts and the Government suggesting that they aren’t worth being on the curriculum, parents will not allow their child to take Arts subjects as they will follow the crowd and do “what’s best for their child” even if it isn’t.

My parents were great when I chose my GCSEs. They allowed me to do whatever I wanted as long as I knew I was focused on that and knew I could do well. One evening I was sat at a dinner party (last year) and whilst eating, a man across from me asked me where I wanted to go to college and what I wanted to do. My parents sat there and nodded but one piece of advice this man gave me, really made me feel warm inside. He said, “don’t listen to your parents, listen to yourself, do what you want to do and do what makes you happy. If you have a goal, stick to that goal and you will succeed”. After that dinner party, I felt like I could do whatever I wanted, as long I was happy and that’s what so many children, parents, carers and teachers need to understand. Children need to do what makes them happy and not what will make the schools and the Government happy.  

One article that I find shocking to read is one I have found from 2014. The Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, said, “pupils are held back by overemphasis on arts”. She said that children aged 15 who choose Arts subjects at GCSE are risking their future career path. I find this horrendous and the fact she said that it is risking their career path is outrageous. There are so many jobs out there for young people in the film, dance, stage industry and it is people who don’t like theatre who are trying to create these funding cuts. If you can’t appreciate the Arts, I recommend you switch off every device you have, never go to the cinema, never watch a film, never go to a gallery, and never watch TV etc. ever again. Without the Arts, the entertainment industry would be flat lining. Also, I do not feel like the Arts are “overemphasised”. If anything, the Arts aren’t being promoted as much as they should be! Funding needs to be improved in the Arts and it needs to be promoted more.

Being in my final year at Hutton and writing this now, I wish I’d have seen everything earlier and done something about it. I hope that in 5/10 years time I can look at secondary schools and see a balance of an academic and creative curriculum. This would be great and would mean that the Government is listening to what people like me are trying to say.

Throughout this entire essay, I have talked about funding and how more is needed. You may tell me that there isn’t enough funding to cover the Arts however if everyone pulled together and supported the Arts maybe, just maybe, we could be one step further to a better curriculum.





5 thoughts on “The Treatment of Arts Subjects at Secondary Level-Tim Dodd, Year 11.

  1. Johnson

    Very lucid article Tim – you are right! As a Physics teacher, I need expressive and creative thinkers. My field is largely useless without these skills developed in the subjects you describe and I would never argue that young people should suffer a narrowing of the curriculum to accommodate more time for “key subjects. Scientists cannot function without communication skills.

    Education is about much more that a list of “stuff” you may know.

    Those who promote such policies see young people as worker ants.


  2. Couldn’t agree more Tim! Great article. The Arts were never quite my forte so I steered clear but they absolutely need more funding and need to be respected more in the curriculum, not only because they’re vitally important in terms of society and education but also for student’s well-being. Emphasising the need for success in core subjects like Maths, English and Science is all well and good, but to help a student grow into a healthy, balanced, intelligent individual they need more than just an academic education.

    Liked by 1 person

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